Five years ago, I wrote an open letter to you. It was the most honest thing I had ever written in my entire life, but I didn’t want you to read it yet as I never wanted you to feel the pressure of being observed so closely. Five years later, I almost feel like a letter isn’t enough. I’m inspired to write an entire book about what a profound, beautiful experience being your father has been. And yet, I still fear you’ll feel some unnecessary pressure to live up to all that I’ve constructed in my mind about you. So I’ll share it with the world first and someday let you read this so you’ll always know how truly important you are to me.
Just like five years ago, you continue to be a comedic genius. Every time we lay eyes on each other, it’s a race to see who can crack the other one up first. Your ability to drop a Simpsons reference is amazing, and perhaps a little intimidating because you’re getting better at it than me. But you couple this humor with another level of savvy, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness where I’m beginning to see the adult you’re going to become and I couldn’t be more excited. Your caring, responsible nature of dog ownership. Your academic prowess and off-the-chart test scores that makes each of your teachers keep using the word “special”. Your willingness to stand in front of a room of kids older than you and give lectures on computer programming. You’re never bored, you never sleep in, you never ask me to buy you anything, and your only common request of me is “Dad, do you want to debug some code with me?”
But our relationship goes a layer deeper and it starts with your name. I am so grateful that your mother and I had the wisdom to give you your grandfather‘s name. It’s an important link that not only honors the sacrifices my father made for me, but the uncanny similarities make uttering your name a persistent reminder of his memory. Your smile. Your easygoing attitude. Your infinite quest for knowledge. And in some cosmic boomerang, in the time since he passed away, you’ve provided the sanity, tranquility, and levelheadedness that he used to deliver to bridge me through my most difficult times. When he died, I feared for the void in my life without his presence. I’m not saying you and I have the same conversations, but you’ve been an antidote to my stress and a reminder of what’s important, just as he was for the first 40+ years of my life.
Our bond is special and it’s often unspoken. I’d be remiss without sharing one memory that encapsulates everything about what makes you so special and what makes us so special. I hope you never forget it. I know I won’t.
It was at this year‘s spelling bee. There you were in the final round, knocking off word after word with a sly stoicism Down to the final two, your last competitor missed his word, so you were one word away from being the champion. As your principal said the word “facilitate”, I started getting nervous for an extra L that might slip in.
And then you did it.
You glanced directly at me, our eyes locked, and you shot a split-second grin as if to say “don’t worry Dad, I got this.”
At that instant, you and I were the only two people in the room that knew what was about to happen.
Five seconds later, all eyes and cheers were on you, which was fortunate as no one noticed me wiping away the tears from under my glasses.
Someday, I hope you’ll be a parent. Until then, you’re gonna have to trust me when I tell you that that was the single greatest moment of my life and I don’t expect anything to top it. The joys of parenting hard to explain to some one who has never done it, and the singular moments that make it all worth while often come out of nowhere. I have it on video (with the still here) and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it and smiled. It’s my drug to get through the worst days. I asked you about it that night, praying that it wasn’t my imagination. You admitted it coyly and flashed the that smile that melts my heart.
You truly are the gift that keeps on giving.
But perhaps the reason I’m most excited about you and your future is that part of you that only your mother and I see. You, my beautiful daughter, are an assassin. You are competitive, you’re hyper focused, and you are aspirational. And the best part is, no one knows it. You will spend your whole life being underestimated. People will see your diminutive size, your soft voice, your easy-going style, and your shy demeanor, and they’ll dismiss you. And that’s when you blow them away. With that said, I hope you know when to selectively temper that intensity. I’ve seen you take losses hard and bottle it up until it explodes. Resilience is going to be a critical part of your future. Sometimes, we aim high and don’t quite get it–and that’s OK. I wanted to go to Princeton, but ended up at Cornell. I wanted to go to Harvard, but ended up at Wharton. Never stop aspiring, but accept and appreciate the results and aim to do better. Even though I didn’t reach my highest aspirations, I ended up at places that I was lucky to be and I can assure you that my life is a lot better than a number of people that pulled off the Princeton/Harvard combo. How do I know that?
Because none of them ended up with you as a daughter.
Happy 10th and thank you for all that you do to make every day truly special.
Your still-smitten father